Christ’s Vision for the Church (12)
For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power. 1 Corinthians 4.20
“Here, then, we are to understand by the kingdom of God whatever tends in this direction, and is appointed for this purpose ― that God may reign among us.”
- John Calvin, Commentary on 1 Corinthians 4.20
Putting vision to work
Jesus worked hard to cast vision for His followers. He summarized His vision for His people in terms of the Kingdom of God. If we were to ask Jesus a motto encapsulating what He hoped to achieve, He would have said something like “My Kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven.” That vision embodied everything Jesus intended in referring to His Church by the various images we have examined in this series.
In His preaching and teaching, by His personal example, and in His work of preparing the disciples for leadership, Jesus kept the vision of the Kingdom in the forefront. He wanted His words to give direction for His disciples in their thinking, planning, lives, and ministries. Thus His Kingdom and reign would come on earth through His Church.
The challenge to church leaders today is to weave the various facets of Christ’s vision for His Church into a clear and meaningful statement of vision for their own congregations. How do we take the Lord’s words about His Church as a holy nation of servants, His Bride and Body, the branches which are firmly attached to Him as the Vine, and meld these together into a single explanation of what we aspire to as followers of Christ in this church? Pastors and elders must take the lead in this, and they will be wise, as they do, to involve leaders from all aspects of the life of the church in developing a succinct statement of vision that embraces all the facets of Christ’s vision for their own congregation.
As we have seen, we can cast vision by teaching, preaching, and making disciples along the lines of those various aspects of Jesus’ vision we have examined in this series. We can bring the language of those facets into our congregational vernacular, so that the people we serve understand and use the components of Christ’s vision as part of their individual and communal experience.
But the reality of Christ’s Kingdom coming on earth through His Church does not consist in words alone. We need words, shared terms with clear meaning, to shape our conversation and outline our thinking. But we need to put the words of our vision to use in shaping the life and work of our church, so that “whatever” we do in our church “tends in this direction,” that is, toward the realization of Christ’s vision and Kingdom.
As we bring this series on Christ’s vision for His Church to a close, allow me to suggest a few ways to “put legs” on the version of Christ’s vision you come up with for your church.
Use the words
First, use the words of your vision statement as often as you can. You might find it helpful to reduce your vision to a concise slogan or motto, embracing all the different facets of Christ’s vision. In a church I served in Baltimore, our motto was “Knowing Christ, Growing Together, Going to the World.” We used these three headings to arrange the other facets of Christ’s vision into groups appropriate to direct these three aspects of our church’s life and work. This motto served as a summary of our vision statement in all our publications, as a framework for ministry planning and evaluation, and as a guide to teaching, preaching, and other ministry activities.
Second, be sure you teach your church’s vision – or some aspect of it – regularly. Some facet of Christ’s vision for your church should feature as often as possible in preaching, teaching, and church communications, to keep the wording fresh in people’s minds and to shape their understanding of the church and its mission accordingly.
From time to time, have discussions with various groups in the church about one or another facet of Christ’s vision. How do they understand this facet? What are we doing, or what might we do, to bring our church more into line with this part of Christ’s vision? How can we work with other churches in our community in expressing this facet of Christ’s vision for His Church?
Don’t put your vision statement away in a drawer and forget about it. The more you use the words of your vision statement, the more they will find their way into the thinking of the people. They will be better prepared to work toward realizing Christ’s vision for the church if they are continually reminded of its importance and various facets.
Plan and evaluate
Let the vision statement you develop become the touchstone for ministry planning and evaluation. Set goals that express, in the lives of the members of your church, and the church as a whole, real progress in the various facets of Christ’s vision. Then work diligently toward realizing those goals, assessing your progress at each step of the way.
Help the people of the church set goals according to your church’s vision as well. In your shepherding calls with people, help them set goals for improving their spiritual disciplines and learning to walk in the Spirit more consistently. Talk with them about their work in their Personal Mission Fields, or however your church phrases this aspect of Christ’s vision. Bring your vision statement into the lives of church members by sharing from your own example of setting goals and making progress, and helping them do the same in ways appropriate to where they are in their walk with and work for the Lord.
Use your church’s vision statement as a guide in praying for your church, its members, and the various ministries and activities emanating from your congregation. And don’t fail to let your church’s vision have a large role in training church leaders for the future, and helping them decide where and how best they may serve the Lord in your church.
Aim at nothing, and you’ll hit it every time. Shoot for the moon, and you might make it over the barn. Take the various facets of Jesus’ vision for His Church and work them into a clear and meaningful statement of what your church seeks to be and accomplish in your community. Then work that vision in the power of the Holy Spirit, trusting the Lord to bring forth fruit appropriate to His purposes.
“It is not smooth talk that reveals the presence of the kingdom of God, but power. When there is power in the words, then the kingdom is present in them.”
- Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD), Commentary on 1 Corinthians 2.22.6-8
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T. M. Moore
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).